Merlin James is currently showing his paintings at the Kerlin Gallery in Dublin – in an exhibition called ‘To the Present’ – that brings together a series of paintings and works on paper that stretch back over 20 years; pictures that give us an insight into a career that has ignored the trends and fashions of a bloated art market and instead has forged its own individualistic path: an idiosyncratic view of the history of art, its traditions and relationship to the present.
James is a painter of small pictures in the ‘easel’ tradition, an artist very much aware of the history of the medium and the weight of its past is evident in everything he paints, his images eschewing the relativism of the present and the endless critical terms for the latest art form whether it be pastiche, kitsch, ironic, abstract lyricism, didacticism or literalism. Rather, his is a process that is determined to mine the depths of the past and renew it, explore it through muted colours and genres we are all familiar with; still lifes, landscapes, architectural forms.
This nonconformist approach can make looking at his pictures somewhat difficult. They demand we stop and take our time, think and question the image, find and explore the relationships he creates between past and present. The intellectual rigour and painterly techniques invested in these paintings is a rarity and should you be in Dublin over the next 6 weeks I strongly urge you to drop into the Kerlin. Go in an have a long hard look at these wonderful pictures that range ‘frame paintings’ on light and translucent surfaces to dense oil paintings on canvas and paper.
‘To the Present’ runs until Saturday 25th June at the Kerlin Gallery, Anne’s Lane, South Anne Street, Dublin 2, Ireland